The town was originally founded by Dutch settlers who had crossed the mountains from the west to grow fruit, but they were unable to sell their excess because of the settlements inaccessibility.
It took Englishman and colonial secretary, John Montagu, to blast a pass through the mountains and build the roads that would open the town to the Cape, with the help of Australian engineer, Henry Fancourt White.
Today the area has many vineyards and is also a tourist area with lots of competing bed and breakfast places and holiday lets.
The oldest house in the town is the Joubert House which is now preserved as a museum, portraying the typical country lifestyle of the 1850’s.
It was built in 1853 and the family was related to Piet Joubert, the Boer leader. He and Paul Kruger and 400 once dined at the house (presumably over many sittings) in 1880 when returning from England after unsuccessfully pleading for the annexation of the Transvaal to be annuled.
The house was badly damaged by floods in 1981 and was set for demolition, but was saved by the Montagu Museum Board of Trustees and lovingly restored. Among its exhibits is a collection of toys, like those shown left as well as the paraphernalia of an earlier.
One area of interest is the kitchen floor. Timber wasn’t used at the time because of the danger of fire and a coating of dung was used instead, freshly applied every fortnight or so.
In the Joubert House though, another solution was found — peach stones covered with beeswax and it still exists today. Walking on it is not unlike a pleasing foot massage!
As I said earlier, Montagu is the most beautiful town, but extremely hot. By midday the mercury was in the mid-30s and we decided that it was time for our wanderings to end for the time being and to return to Cape Town.
But we certainly hope to visit again, perhaps for a day or two before we return to the UK.